The Epson Artisan 835 is the company's flagship, photo-oriented color inkjet multifunction (print/copy/scan/fax). Although it isn't specifically designed for office use (as is Epson's WorkForce line), the Artisan 835 has nearly every feature a home-office user could want and then some, making its $300 price (as of October 3, 2010) justifiable, if still dear.
Setting up the Artisan 835 wirelessly was a breeze (USB and ethernet are also available); the dialog boxes were concise and easy to understand. Bundled software includes ArcSoft Print Creations for projects such as calendars, cards, and brochures, as well as Web to Page for formatting online content to fit better onto paper.
Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) and an automatic document feeder for sending multipage documents through the scanner help make the Artisan 835 one of the best-equipped inkjet multifunctions we've seen. It also handles printable optical media (CDs, DVDs): Press the CD Tray button, and a 5.25-inch disc tray descends from the output area. The bottom-mounted, 120-sheet letter/legal paper tray is adequate; a dedicated, 20-sheet photo paper tray nestles inside it. Two media-card slots take CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card.
The Artisan 835 has one of the most distinctive and easily usable control panels we've seen to date. A 3.5-inch color touchscreen LCD sits within a 7.8-inch, amber-backlit touch panel. The controls light up contextually, appearing only when required. Although the LCD can appear a bit crowded, the layout is intuitive. The panel tilts upward freely, but tilting downward requires the awkward step of pushing an adjacent lock-release button.
Compared with the like-priced Canon Pixma MG8120, the Artisan 835 was a bit slower printing text, generating 7.3 pages per minute on the PC and 7 ppm on the Mac. It was considerably faster printing photos. On the PC, our snapshot-size photo printed at 5.24 ppm on letter-size plain paper, and 2.1 ppm printed on Epson's own photo paper. The larger, more complex photo that we print using our Mac emerged at 0.9 ppm, the best speed we've seen recently for this category. Scanning and copying speeds were much faster than average.
The Artisan 835's photos look smooth and natural, with a slightly cool color temperature. Text output in default mode on plain paper is lackluster, coming out gray and a little fuzzy-edged. Switch the driver to its Fine setting, however, and the black deepens and character definition improves drastically -- in exchange for slower printing and higher ink usage.
Inside the Artisan 835 you'll find six color cartridges: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, plus light cyan and light magenta for a subtler palette in photos. All deliver impressively low ink costs. The high-yield color cartridges each cost $16 and yield approximately 805 pages -- a hair less than 2 cents per color per page. You'll pay 3.3 cents per page with the $17.09, 520-page, high-yield black cartridge. No standard-size black cartridge exists, but the other standard colors each cost $10.44 and last 510 pages, or 2 cents per color per page.
Despite its somewhat high price, the Epson Artisan 835 is worth considering for its wealth of features and impressive performance. Only its grayish text on plain paper and lower-capacity input tray keep it from being as well suited for office use as it is for photo work.